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You have guest coming and everything is going as planned and all of a sudden a plumbing fixture or the house sewer line clogs up! You call the plumber and he wants $100-$200 and to make matters worse it will be two days before he can get to it. Now you are thinking, “Maybe I should buy a small sewer snake or rent a power sewer snake”. But then you remember your neighbor’s experience with sewer snakes, the time, effort and mess and he still could not fix the problem.

As a home builder, I can tell you that unless someone threw a solid object like a toy, block of wood or grandma’s teeth down the drain, 95% of the time one of the two products discussed below will solve your problem within 8 hours.

For those looking for a quick answer, here it is:

Trouble Shooting the Problem:

  • Main Line Blockage

Main Line CleanerWhen I have a slow running or clogged plumbing fixture, the first thing I do is check the sewer clean out (normally a 4" white plastic threaded cap located in you lawn between the house foundation and public sewer line or septic tank).  Unscrew the clean out cap.

If sewage comes out of the clean out or you can see sewage water just sitting in the pipe, then the problem is a blockage between the clean out and the connection at the street sewer or the septic tank (the septic tank or its drain field could have a more serious problem in which case you need to call a septic tank expert). To remove the blockage, use a product call Instant Power Main Line Cleaner.

Follow produce directions, but generally this is what I do. If possible let the water drain out of the pipe before pouring the cleaner into the clean out opening so that the cleaner will concentrate around the blocking object. Depending on the amount of water left in the sewer line and the length of the sewer line you may have to use two or more bottles of the Main Line Cleaner at a time.  Keep in mind that you can afford to use many bottles of this stuff and still be ahead of the cost for a plumber.  Let it sit over night or for at least 8 hours to give it a chance to dissolve the blockage. Next morning let a couple of sink facets run hot water for about 15 minutes. Better yet, pour boiling water into the clean out.  In addition, try using a garden hose at the clean out. Sometimes after a treatment it helps to push a garden hose into the line down to the clog. Turn it on and jab the hose back and forth to try to loosen the blockage.  If water is still backed up try another bottle or two of cleaner.   If that does not work, then there is probably a solid blockage that needs a plumber’s attention. By-the-way on rare occasions, roots from nearby trees can clog a sewer line in which case you will need a plumber, but before you call the plumber, call the public utility department. Some utility departments will remove roots or any blockage at no cost to the owner if the blockage is in the part of the pipe that is in the public right-of-way.

If you open the clean out and find no water, the next step is to activate the plumbing fixture nearest the clean out and watch for water to flow through the pipe. If you see flowing water, activate the next nearest fixture and so on until you don’t see water flowing. If no water is seen flowing past the clean out opening, then the blockage is in the fixture trap or in the sewer line close to the fixture. At that point, insert a coat hanger in the drain then pull it out and look for debris such as sluge or hair on the end of the coat hanger or better yet, take the trap off to see if it has a blockage. If you do not want to take the trap off, try the Hair & Grease Drain Cleaner first.  If that does not work then try the Main Line Cleaner.  Keep in mind that if the other bathroom fixtures are working the odds that a trap is blocked in which case read the next section of this article.  If you do not find any debris in the trap, pour the Main Line Cleaner down that fixture and wait until the next morning. I would not pour the cleaner down a toilet. I pour the cleaner down the sink or tub next to the toilet. Otherwise, most of the cleaner will sit in the bottom of the toilet doing no good.


  • Plumbing Fixture Trap Blockage

Hair and Grease Cleaner

If you discover that the blockage is just in a plumbing fixture trap, pour Instant Power® Hair & Grease Drain Opener down the drain following the instructions on the product. This will dissolve any organic blockage in the trap. However, let me offer this observation. If you have a slow draining bathroom sink, first shine a light in the drain and look for hair hanging on the stopper closure mechanism. Use a coat hanger to remove the hair and then see if the water drains properly. As an alternative to using a coat hanger, try pouring Nair on the hair and let it sit for an hour. The reason for this suggestion is that most unclogging products settle in the trap which is below the hair hanging on the closure mechanism problem and therefore, will not dissolve the hanging hair.

Main Line Cleaner and Hair & Grease are inexpensive products, so I always keep a couple of bottles on hand to attack a problem as soon as it rears its ugly head. Both manufactures offers a 100% guarantee or your money back (my kind of product). You can find both products at Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Lowes for about $10 each.